Every poker player knows that picking up a read (also known as information) on their opponents is crucial to their chances of taking down the big pots. Looking for those tells is essential, and knowing how to get a read on your opponents is key to your success at the poker table. Discovering just how to get a read on your opponents is what this article is all about.
The first thing you have to be aware of when trying to pick up information on your opponents is that it is not as simple as opening your eyes and seeing their face. If you are trying to get a read on an opponent you are going to need to analyze what the player does throughout the hand, their body language, and their playing style. Their hands and their eyes are giving you the biggest clues to what they have on hand, and even though you cannot see their face you can analyze their hands and actions if you have a good understanding of how they play.
The first thing you want to be aware of when analyzing your opponents is how they bet throughout the hand. If they check during the hand, chances are they have a strong hand. How they bet is a good indicator of what they have, and you will get a lot of information simply by analyzing the way they bet. If they raise pre-flop and then check the flop, there is a good chance they have a high pair or ace or king. By watching your opponents you will be able to draw a rough parallel between their actions and what you know about their hand.
The next thing to be aware of is common denomination online and how it may apply to your opponents. Most of the time when looking at your opponents they will be betting in similar denominations, such as $2-$4, $5-$8, and $10-$20. Not unlike casinos, you want to avoid betting in dime sized chips and pick up a lot of small denomination chips. You do not want to gamble for instance $10,000 worth of chips and have all your money gone in one roll.
By analyzing your opponents you can suggest possible hands for them to play. You can usually get a good idea of the range of hands they play by starting hands and common hands used by each player on the table. After you have determined what the range of hands your opponent will play, you can start to vary your range of hands and approach.
The important thing to remember about getting a read on your opponents is that you will not win every hand. Skipping around and observing your opponents for small periods, in order to get a read on them, is more cost efficient than flying blind and investing your entire stack in one go.
A well-timed bluff can take down the pot when your opponents are not expecting you to bet. Or, if you are famous and your opponents have been watching their moves, it can be possible to make a play and steal a pot without them even knowing what hit them.
The main lesson is that you always have to know where your cards are at all times. The later your cards are when you make a play, the better. Try to play less hands in the early stages and more hands in the later stages. Do not play a hand without having something good while the pot is just tipping over into the late stages.
The later your cards are, the better your hands are. The chance of your cards holding up is much higher in the later stages. You can see many plays on the table where players are not sure whether to bet or not and throw their cards away. If you can time your bluff perfectly and convince your opponents you actually have a good hand, you can pick up a lot of the blinds and small bets.
A well-timed continuation bet can sometimes even get players like Steve Seely out of the hand. One of the regulars in the LAG community used the continuation bet on the bubble after Seely’s deck had gotten rich. As the game came to the crunch Seely calls what looks like a bluff and loses to a 10-8-4 flop. A continuation bet is a great play if you have read your opponent’s hand and have a good read. Sometimes you will hit the flop and get paid off as an underdog.
One of the best examples of reading players came last year in the U.K. When the final hand of the main event of the WSOP was shown, Phil Ivey looked at the final hand and modestly noted, “You know what, this is stupid. Steve kid playing suited connectors, I guess?” His opponent Steve Dwan is a good player and he likely did not want to get involved in a showdown.